KELOWNA – Thousands of refugees are continuing to flee from Syria to any country that will take them, but an Okanagan couple is wondering why Canada isn’t doing more.
Jim and Wendy Scorgie worked as international teachers in Aleppo in 2001. They recount meeting so many sincere, kind-hearted people, including a fellow teacher named Marwa Saffaf.
When war broke out in Syria, the Scorgies were living in Kelowna. They put out a call on facebook in 2013 to see if any of their friends overseas needed help; Marwa responded.
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From there the Scorgies tried to get Marwa and her three young boys to Canada. They helped her file for a visitor’s visa two separate times, but both applications were denied for no apparent reason.
“We didn’t feel her application was given a fair look,” said Wendy Scorgie.
She and her husband then talked to Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, who gave them some suggestions on federal programming, but says there isn’t much else he can do.
“In all cases we can help people identify programs, pass them on and help the family,” says Albas, “but it’s not the politicians that decide…immigration officers judge a visa application on its merits.”
“It’s as if we know the holocaust is underway and we’re doing nothing about it,” says Jim Scorgie, “If you can’t move quickly at a time like this there’s something wrong with our bureaucracy and decision making that doesn’t allow us to make fast decisions to help people that are dying.”
For two years the Kelowna couple continued to try to help Marwa find a new home, but by May of 2015 the fighting had literally reached her door. The Scorgie’s knew time was running out.
“The war, as she said it, the war was over their heads,” says Wendy, “It just became reality our friends were in the middle of a war zone. Our [old] house was in the middle of a war zone.”
Marwa’s husband illegally fled to Germany in hopes his family would be able to seek refuge status and join him. But the wait was more than a year, so Jim and Wendy jumped into action, paying the way for Marwa and her three young boys to make it to Istanbul.
The Scorgies made the trip to Turkey to meet Marwa and her family when they arrived.
“We get there and we see three little pairs of running shoes and a big pair and we thought ‘they made it, they made it!’,” says Wendy.
Now the next step is to reunite Marwa with her husband in Germany, a process that has started but is still underway.
The Scorgies have started a “Go Fund Me” account called “Rescue Marwa” and they say the response so far has been amazing.